Priorities and Letting Go

I’m having some serious problems with my computer. I think I got a virus or other malware that made harmful changes to my operating system until it wouldn’t load correctly. Long story short, my efforts to repair it seem to have made a bigger mess. I’ve backed up all my essential files and made sure I can reinstall important programs (e.g. the software I use to compose music). The next step is to format my hard drives, then reinstall my operating system. If all goes well, it will be like having a new computer.

Which means I’ll lose all the progress I’d made in The Sims 3 and other favorite games. If I ever want to play The Sims 3 again, I’ll need to reinstall the base game, several expansions, tons of additional content, and all the updates. It will take several hours – possibly days. Then my only choice will be to start a new game, completely from scratch…

Or I can just walk away…

I’ll be honest, I’m not happy about this. I’d prefer for my computer to run smoothly and never have problems. But I’ve had this computer for over 5 years. The hardware is still in good shape, but the software is getting clunky. There are programs I don’t use (one of which interferes with The Sims 3 and other games), I’m way overdue to defragment my hard drive, and my files are kind of disorganized. I had a ton of bad, blurry, or redundant photos taking up space, things I meant to sort or delete and never did, a plethora of downloads… It’s a mess.

I actually welcome the opportunity to start anew, with a clean uncluttered desktop. I can be intentional regarding what I install, how I organize my files, etc. I can build a tool that will help me accomplish my dreams instead of distracting me from them (as much?).

With all the things I’ve been angry and anxious about lately, I’m grateful for my ability to be at peace with this. It’s not a medical, emotional, or financial crisis. I’m not going to lose important files I worked hard to create. And it’s provided some good opportunities. I spent the last few days going through old pictures and reminiscing. I watched the video from my wedding and found the sermon & vows to have even more meaning than they did on that day. I’ve learned a lot about how to protect oneself from malware and other unwanted software. I’ve started focusing more on my priorities: wellness, family, my career, making the world a better place.

Now I just need to let go. To trust that I have everything that’s important, I can live without (or replace) the files that will be erased, and I’m making the right decision for me based on what I know now. If I regret something later, I will have the resources and support I need to work through and release that regret. It’s okay, I’m okay. The world is so much more than this.

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Sims 3 Legacy: Beyond the Veil

This is the fifth installment of my Sims 3 Legacy; I’m halfway to my goal of 10 generations! Today’s post picks up where Part 4 left off: with Oma pregnant very soon after her high school graduation.

Legacy Family

Oma gave birth to a boy (whom she named Patrick), followed soon after by a girl (Penny).

This served as a sort of wake up call for her uncle Nash: he wasn’t getting any younger, and he wanted to be sure his nieces’ children would have plenty of adults available to care for them. So, he reopened his workshop and built a second simbot, whom he named Kim.

Back-profile view of an older man (left) looking at a silver metal anthropomorphic robot (center).

Kim (right) tells Nash (left) about zir awesome features. Nash’s other, non-sentient inventions are visible in the background.

A man crouches with arms extended to a toddler with long hair, who is standing with hands extended toward the man's face. A robot stands holding a male toddler, who appears to be laughing.

Nash (center) teaches Penny to walk, while Kim (right foreground) tickles Patrick.

Nash died soon afterward, much to his chagrin. His love of inventing had been reawakened, there were new children to help raise… but he was out of time. Though his legacy wasn’t quite as world-changing as he’d wanted, Nash tried to take comfort in the fact that he had created a simbot who outlived him. Death claimed Nash as ze must do to all sims.

Oma had always been uniquely attuned to the reality beyond the grave, so it seemed only natural for her to become a ghost hunter. At first she was called upon to capture simple spirits who had lost their self-identity – and whom her clients found annoying. Most of these spirits turned out to be friendly, scared, or hurting. Oma discovered that, by catching and releasing them, she could enable these spirits to be at peace.

It is nighttime in a clearing surrounded by trees. A young woman in a yellow jumpsuit holds out a container. Above her, a bright green semi-transparent ghost-like shape rises out of the container.

Oma releases a recently-captured spirit into the night.

Oma quickly built a reputation as a successful ghost hunter, which brought a welcome influx of clients. She was increasingly called upon to eliminate ghostly presences that made her clients feel uneasy in their own homes, and that at times even threatened clients’ safety. These ghosts were sentient and took forms similar to the ones they’d had in life. Oma found they simply needed someone to be compassionate and reassure them that it was safe to let go of this existence.

The image features a man (left) who is purple, transparent, and wearing chain mail. He is shaking hands with a woman wearing a yellow jumpsuit (right).

Oma (right) shakes hands with a ghost (left) whom she has convinced to move on.

Meanwhile, Oma’s sister Olive graduated high school and joined a criminal organization in hopes of someday becoming a master thief. She had an affair with her superior (a fairy named Luis Case) and birthed a son (whom she named Paul). Olive has been working hard and rising in the ranks (despite numerous arrests).

A large family poses in front of a beach scene.

Patrick (left), Nicole (holding Paul), Kim (center), Olive, Oma (right), and Penny (seated in foreground) pose for a family photo at the summer festival.

Proud to have 3 grandchildren, Nicole spent much of her time caring for Patrick, Penny, and especially Paul. As the children became more independent, she dedicated increasing amounts of time to alchemy. Nicole created a large stock of elixirs, which should prove useful to current and future generations.

A woman with gray hair uses a long wooden spoon to stir the contents of an opaque cauldron. A large book lies open on a stand to her right.

Nicole stirs one of her many artfully-crafted elixirs.

When Death came for Nicole on Spooky Day, she greeted zir with grace and gratitude. Ze had given her children, who in turn gave her grandchildren. Now, after a long full life, ze offered her rest.

The family, though saddened, has been doing quite well. Kim – inspired by Nicole’s artistic brilliance – has developed a love of painting. Patrick has grown up to be quite the socialite; he loves making new friends and is always ready to throw a party. Penny loves everything having to do with music and works diligently to master a variety of instruments. Paul – brilliant, ambitious, and… a bit odd – is doing well in high school.

Several sims wearing formal wear pose in front of a snowy backdrop.

Paul (seated, front left), Oma (standing, left), Kim, Penny (center), Olive, and Patrick (right) pose for a family photo soon after Penny’s high school graduation.

A woman plays an electronic keyboard outdoors. Behind her, a large excavated area reveals a platform with an ornate door featuring images of the grim reaper.

Penny (center) plays her portable keyboard near the excavation site. A small group of sims (left) listen to her play. In the right background, a tourist converses with Death.

Family Tree

I have expanded the Legata family tree, pictured below, to include the newest generation. On the far left, the symbol for Nash is now crossed out to indicate that he is deceased. Kim is represented by a diamond (filled with black to indicate that ze is a simbot); a blue arrow points from Nash to Kim to show that Nash built zir. The symbol for Nicole is also crossed out to show that she is deceased.

The symbol for Oma (bottom center) is connected to the one for Quintin Beaulieu with a blue dotted line to indicate that they dated briefly. The symbol for Olive (next to Oma) is connected to the one for Luis Case with a pink dashed line to show that they had an affair – that is, Luis cheated on his girlfriend with Olive. The symbols for Luis and his sister Tanesha are filled with green to show that they are fairies. The symbols for their (divorced) parents are filled with gray to show that their supernatural status is unknown.

Finally, the symbols for Patrick, Penny, and Paul (far bottom) are filled with yellow to indicate that they – like their mothers, grandmother (Nicole), great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother (Lisa) – are all witches!

The Legata Family Tree, generations 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

The Legata Family Tree, generations 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

A Place for the Dead

The Legatas expanded Nash’s astronomy tower downward to create their own private catacombs. On the first level they interred Nash and Nicole, whose remains had been cremated. Their urns rest on a table, surrounded by flowers, with their portraits on the wall behind them.

A gray stone wall with two portraits on it, behind a dark table. On the table are two white urns with gold embellishments, one in front of each portrait.

The memorial to Nash (left) and Nicole (right), inside the newly-built Legata family catacombs.

Legacy House

I expanded the legacy house so all the bedrooms – 5 in total – are on the second floor. The bedrooms on the first floor have been converted: the one near the front of the house is now a playroom/nursery and features a porch opening out onto a playground. The bedroom in the right back corner of the house is now an alchemy lab, and the one in the back center is… essentially a hallway. A large addition to the front left of the house features a double staircase going up to the second floor. I added doorways to facilitate movement from room to room.

The first floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to show all the rooms. Kim reads in the livingroom (near the center of the house).

The first floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to show all the rooms. Kim reads in the living room (near the center of the house).

The second floor features two full bathrooms, five bedrooms, and plenty of hallway space. The hallway has easels for painting and is often the location of impromptu music performances. Two of the bedrooms are intended for one sim, and two feature double beds. The bedroom in the back left has three single beds – one for each of the children born in this generation.

The second floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to make all the rooms visible. The back center bedroom is dark because Olive is sleeping in it.

The second floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to make all the rooms visible. The back center bedroom is dark because Olive is sleeping in it.

A large 2-story house surrounded by a fence. A two-car garage is visible in the left front. There is a tower in the left rear, surrounded by graves. A fenced-in garden and playground are visible in the far right.

The legacy lot and surrounding countryside.

The Next Generation

Penny has started casually dating the young adult male sim behind and slightly to the right of her in the image where she’s playing piano. It seems likely she might start having children with him the next time I play… 😉

Speaking of which, I’ve been feeling a lot less temptation to play The Sims 3. There’s definitely a correlation: the worse I feel, the more I play. The better I feel, the less I play – because I’m too busy doing other awesome real-world things. I also tend to feel worse as a result of playing The Sims 3, especially when it’s slow and glitching or I’ve made the mistake of giving my sims autonomy. The absolute worst is when I let it eat my whole day (or multiple days…).

So, yeah. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot with my Sims 3 Legacy; I’m quite proud of it. I might even be able to just end it here: reread my posts, look at the succession of family portraits, pat myself on the back, and walk away. Of course, the more I think about it, the more tempted I am to boot it up as soon as I publish this blog post…

My point is, if I continue playing, it will be for the fun of playing the game. I might continue the Legacy Challenge. I might make a new game so I can explore aspects of my existing expansions that I still haven’t gotten to yet. I might just make ridiculous sims or build incredible houses. That’s kind of the point: it’s a sandbox game.

If I continue this legacy, I’ll definitely post about it. The posts will just be a lot less frequent.

Let It Go

One thing I’m really bad at is letting things go when they make me angry. I become kind of obsessed with them; I keep ruminating on the situation, what should have happened, why I’m right and the other person is wrong, etc. Occasionally I allow it to ruin my whole day.

Sometimes it’s a situation where Wakana would express concern if I weren’t getting angry – a situation that needs to be resolved. The anger gives me the energy and motivation to take action on it. I need to be assertive in making sure my needs are met – firm enough that the other person knows “I mean business,” but not verbally abusing them or otherwise ignoring their rights and needs. Sometimes I have difficulty finding the balance.

A prime example is trying to get treatment for my Endangered Molar, which has an infection that is causing “extensive” bone loss. (In other words, something is eating part of my skull.) My dental insurance took forever to approve a consultation with a periodontist, and then neglected to inform me of their decision. I had to call them – to learn it had been approved a month earlier!

I went for the consultation on January 22nd; the authorization for treatment was submitted on January 26th. The weeks went by… nothing.

I called multiple times and was told a variety of things, from “we never received that” to “it’s been escalated to a supervisor.” Last week I was told that no authorization for treatment had been received, but I had been approved to see the periodontist for a consultation. It had been escalated and approved just the day before.

I was furious! I told the person I was talking to that I had already been to the periodontist for a consultation and they should have an authorization for treatment. She insisted that what had been received was a referral for a consultation; the authorization was a different thing, the periodontist had to submit a “narrative,” etc. We kept saying the same things to each other over and over, with more and more frustration in our voices. I caught myself starting to slip into some inappropriate language; I knew that if the conversation continued it would likely result in me saying some very mean things. I made every effort to end the call as soon as possible without “hanging up on” the person.

I was fuming for the rest of the day. I couldn’t focus on anything else. I couldn’t enjoy being intimate with my husband. I just wanted to break things – including the skulls of the people responsible! It didn’t help that I was in a lot of pain from having Root Canal Molar extracted. I was miserable.

I thought I had to wait for the periodontist to come back from vacation to submit the “narrative,” so I decided to wait until Tuesday to pursue the matter further. After rehearsing my questions a million times – as though preparing to represent the plaintiff in court – I called my insurance. I learned that the “narrative” is basically the diagnosis and treatment plan. The person I spoke to seemed very reluctant to provide useful information … almost as though it was against company guidelines… I noticed we were starting to repeat ourselves, so I ended the conversation before I could become so angry I’d be stuck dwelling on it for the rest of the day.

On Wednesday I called the periodontist’s office and spoke to a very helpful individual who not only clarified what happened, but forwarded me the email that had been submitted to my dental insurance. To be honest, I could see how they might have misinterpreted it: the file name for the attachment was “referral,” the form filled out was a “referral” form, and the periodontist’s office also offers general dentistry. I had to (wait for it!) read the content of the form to see that treatment was being requested. I was also able to verify that it met the criteria I’d been given for a “narrative:” two specific treatments were requested by name and reference number, and it was clearly indicated that I have “extensive bone loss” in the area. I’m not sure there is any additional information that would be relevant, except that I HAVE BEEN IN PAIN FOR SEVEN MONTHS MAKE IT STOP!!!!

This time, when I called my dental insurance, I immediately asked to speak to someone who had the authority to make a decision regarding my treatment. I was connected to a supervisor – who couldn’t authorize treatment, but could work with me more efficiently. I was able to be specific regarding the treatment requested, state that the x-rays and periodontal chart were included, and explain that it was on a “referral” form but was a request to cover treatment. The supervisor offered to call the referrals department, find out what they had received, and call me back.

On Thursday I received a call saying that they have the information I’ve been trying to convince them they’ve had for weeks!!! and it will be sent to the claims department on Friday. The supervisor suggested waiting until Wednesday to follow up regarding the actual decision.

For now I’m calling that a success – because if I don’t I’ll go even more crazy.

… But sometimes it’s a situation that I don’t have any control over and it’s not really worth following up on. Most of the examples I can think of have to do with disagreeing with someone on the Internet.

I think I got myself blocked from someone’s Facebook post … or maybe the whole post got deleted? Someone else had made a comment (tangentially related to the original post) about “transgender men” being allowed in women’s locker rooms at Planet Fitness; I interpreted it to be derisive. I felt compelled to clarify that the person in the women’s locker room was a trans woman and that Planet Fitness had defended her right to use the locker room that corresponds with her gender, free from harassment. Perhaps some of the (additional) points I made could have been worded a bit better. Perhaps some of my anger came through. It’s kind of hard to say; I can maybe see how part of it could be misinterpreted…

(Or I could be making a big deal out of nothing.)

At first I was able to see the post and all the comments leading up to mine, but there was an “error loading” at the bottom of the page. Then the notifications I had received regarding the post disappeared. The post no longer appears in my feed or where it was originally posted. It’s as though it never existed… which might be for the better, but it’s annoying the hell out of me!

I could private message the original poster, apologize for anything that was offensive, and ask what happened… but I’m not sure it’s worth it. We’re acquaintances who haven’t been in the same physical space for years; I’ve never even met the other people who had commented.

I think the best thing to do is let it go and move on with my life. Focus on something else. Do something else. I wish I could switch off the thought patterns that keep fixating on this relatively insignificant experience – or delete them. The post doesn’t exist anymore, so why should my memory of it?

But if I had an easy time letting things go and switching my focus to something else, I wouldn’t have written this blog post. Anyone have any ideas? What works for you?

Take this. I’ve been carrying it for you for 16 years.

Insight by itself isn’t particularly useful. You need to actually do something with it in order to benefit. I’ve known for years that I never fully mourned my father’s death. That the knot in my shoulder probably has something to do with him. That I’m angry with him for hurting Mom and me, lying to us, and abandoning us. That I’m not going to recover from my depression until I forgive him.

But today was the first time I actively expressed those emotions to him. With Wakana’s support and guidance I propped up a stuffed animal to represent him and yelled and cried and stood with my hands on my hips and didn’t hold anything back. I wasn’t nice about it at all. I was brutally honest.

Something came out that took me by surprise. Something extremely familiar, yet completely unexpected: Disappointment. I’m disappointed in him. It seems absurd, what right does a daughter have to be disappointed in her father? Well, this daughter is all grown up. And yes, I’m disappointed in him.

When he married my mother, he made a promise. I’ve made that same promise to Fox, so I know how important it is and how difficult it can be to keep. But I’ve made a commitment to keeping that promise, to always working with Fox to keep that promise no matter what. My father broke his promise to my mother. I am very angry with him for that. I am very disappointed in him. These are my emotions that I feel, and I feel them toward him because of something he did.

When he helped to create me and took on the role of father, he made a promise. It might never have been spoken, but it was a set of expectations I had for him: that he would protect me, that he would live by the values he taught me, that he would be there when I needed him, that I could trust him. He broke his promise. He hurt me both physically and emotionally. He lied to me after teaching the importance of honesty. He was a hypocrite. He abandoned me. And he taught me to value and respect him more than I valued and respected my mother. For all her flaws, she deserves at least as much respect as him. He should have modeled that for me, but he did the opposite.

I am very, very disappointed in him.

Here’s the thing: I’d been directing that disappointment at myself. I’d taken on the guilt I imagine he would feel, were he alive to hear the things I said today. I took responsibility for his failings; I believed I was the one who’d committed the sin of betrayal; I thought I had to redeem myself and did everything I could to do so and felt crushing guilt when nothing I did was enough. Maybe it’s possible for a father to make it up to his daughter after disappointing her as my father disappointed me. Maybe. But for a daughter to make it up to herself? Impossible. Nothing I can do will make my disappointment in my father go away.

But now I am directing it at him. I am disappointed in him. I am giving him the responsibility I’ve been carrying for the things he did to hurt me. It’s his responsibility. He’s the owner of the guilt. He’s the one who, if he were alive, would have reason to feel like he has to do something to redeem himself. Not me.

I am the one in control, the one feeling the disappointment, the one with the ability to sentence or forgive. I am the Judge, the Warden, even. I was never on trial. He is.

I’ve expressed my anger, my rage, my disappointment, my hurt, my sorrow. I’ve yelled and cried. I’ve handed him the burden I’ve been carrying. It’s his burden, it was never mine; it belongs to him.

And under all of that, I love him. I’d been saying I wanted to punch him, but when I had the stuffed animal standing in for him I decided it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t need to become violent, to have that violence on my shoulders. I hugged him instead. I chose to express my love for him.

Now it is time to let go. To say goodbye. And to forgive.

Can I really just walk away from all of this?

Well, I have lots of people whom I love and who love me. I’m married. I’ve already lived 16 years without him, carrying a burden that was never mine. I’ve experienced success and I’m learning to tolerate failure, as much as I dislike it. I’ve been and will continue to develop my talents and skills. Some day I might even have meaningful employment. Children of my own. A legacy.

Yes, I can leave this burden in the sand. I can walk away from it. That is what I choose to do.

You disappointed me, Dad. You weren’t the father I needed you to be. But I know that you were human, and humans make mistakes. And I still love you, Dad. I’ll always love you. So I choose to forgive you. And I need to live my life. Goodbye.

NewProjects

With only 11 days until the Out of the Darkness Overnight, it’s seeming less and less feasible for me to participate. I haven’t been training, I’m nowhere near the $700 I’m required to raise, and I haven’t made any travel plans or hotel reservations. Mom keeps saying, “Maybe this isn’t the year for you to do this.” It hurts like hell to hear it, but at least half the reason why it hurts is because at least part of me thinks she’s right.

I was finally able to express how her feedback is affecting me: “When you say things like that, I feel depressed. I feel like I suck.”

“I don’t think you suck. I just think you have a lot going on right now, and maybe trying to do this on top of it isn’t the best idea.”

She has a point. A lot of things have been going on to get in the way of my preparations for the Overnight:

  • my response to the 15-year anniversary of my father’s death
  • moving back in with Mom
  • moving back in with Mom
  • the extreme self-deprecation and anxiety that forced me to drop the last 2 pre-thesis classes I need to complete my master’s degree because they increased my self-harm risk
  • lack of social support
  • midterm and end-of-the-semester stress
  • anxiety over Mom’s surgery
  • Mom’s surgery
  • visiting Mom after her surgery
  • taking care of Dog and rats
  • turning to the computer (rather than walking or other forms of exercise) for escapism
  • depression symptoms
    • fatigue
    • lack of motivation
    • self-harm ideation and thought imagery
  • social anxiety; not wanting to be seen

Yes, I could have made different choices. But I think blaming myself for not preparing for the Overnight would be like blaming someone for losing a poker match in which the best hand ze was dealt was a pair of deuces. Sometimes, your best option is to fold.

When I expressed all this to Fox, he suggested a brilliant compromise: instead of attempting the overnight walk in Washington, D.C., I can do my own, shorter, walk locally. I can time it for when Banji and other people I love and trust can make it. Mom can come – even if she can’t walk the full route, she might be able to walk part of it. Just her physical presence as a supporter would mean the world to me!

I can even still ask people to chip in what they can to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). We might even raise some awareness; I can wear the shirt I received for raising $100 for the Overnight and maybe my supporters can wear matching shirts in a similar color (ooh, getting together to decorate them might be fun!) … that kind of thing usually gets people to wonder what’s going on; even explaining our shenanigans to just one person might make a difference.

The AFSP even has tools for creating your own campaign that I can use! They offer a variety of ideas; endurance events (e.g. walks) are only one option.

I’m thinking of making a campaign I could link to from this blog, actually. One idea I have is to invite readers to commission posts on topics of their choice related to my experiences with mental illness, mental health care, and possibly other topics – all with the caveat that I will only share information I feel comfortable and safe sharing. What do you think?

Another project I’m planning is an herb and vegetable garden. Fox is on board with it; I love the idea of having someone to garden with. We’ve done some research and decided to start small, just a handful of plants in a few pots, preferably raised off the ground so we don’t have to bend too much. It’s a way for us to get outside in the fresh air and sun, do something that resembles physical activity, connect with nature, and possibly even grow our own fresh (preferably organic) produce! – that is, if the squirrels don’t eat it all …